Sep 11, 2020

Entering product design – Chapter 2: Principles over steps

Continuing with our series on entering product design. I hope you start to consider stopping looking for the perfect recipe or silver bullet.

At this point, I suspect you wonder if you don’t follow steps, then what should you hang onto?

You should be relying on principles instead of steps.

Let me reintroduce you to principles. Yes, you read it right: reintroduce. In your life, realizing it or not, you already make decisions with the help of principles. For example, if it’s raining, you know you shouldn’t get wet, or you can get sick. So you decide to either put an umbrella up or take shelter. However, on some occasions, you might need to get wet because you have to catch up on the last bus of the day.

In that example, you assess the situation using the principles: avoid getting wet whenever possible. Yet, it’s still flexible enough so you can consider the other factors and make a proper trade-off: last bus to catch.

Imagine if you follow steps. If raining, step 1: take a shelter, step 2: wait, and step 3: go home. You’ll be walking all night.

There I loosely explained how principles help us in the real world scenario to make a better decision while allowing you to consider the larger picture.

Principles will be your best friend as a product designer when working on a complex problem.

Product designer must work creatively and critically. You are not working in a manufacture’s assembly line and follow steps. You solve problems.

Now, let’s use Design Thinking as our example. As you read the word design thinking, your head might picture the famous hexagons: understand, define, prototype, test, build. Beware that is a step. Like I emphasized before, you shouldn’t merely follow steps without understanding the underlying principles. Unfortunately, many product designers are stuck with that step and unable to see beyond it.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced product designer. You might think of the three core principles of design thinking: 1) Empathize and observe user, 2) Endless iteration, and 3) Radical collaboration. Or you might think of the three core consideration areas 1) Valuability, 2) Viability, and 3) Feasibility.

When building a product, you should use those core principles to produce a product that valuable for customer to buy, viable for the legal and business, and feasible in the technology perspective.

Just to be clear – there are a lot of principles and not just the three I mentioned above. The key is don’t be a rigid product designer, your work is so different with engineers who have more certainty to build something with code. I’m not trying to underestimate the importance of engineers, but the nature of our work is different.

I will unpack each principle and share a few tools you can use later in part 2 of this series. In the next chapter, I’d love to clear up a common misunderstanding about business.

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